Happy birthday… to me!

Wow. It has been months. I mean, months, since I’ve posted! It even feels weird to be typing this up!

Quick catch up… I got my first teaching job! I graduated last June, and was hired in August to be a half day Kindergarten teacher. MAN. Half day Kinder is tough. But, at the same time it is rewarding and fun! And because of the craziness, it is safe to say that my life has been taken over! All I do is teach, plan for teaching, organize for teaching, talk about teaching. I LOVE IT! And, I have an amazing husband who is supportive and listens as I ramble on, and on about my days. However, life is good!

The other day I was reading up on a friend’s blog. She is blogging to keep family and friends in communication about her pregnancy. She made my bagels recipe, and shared it on her blog. I realized how long it has truly been since I blogged and how much I enjoy it! So, here I am! It was perfect timing because… today… is… my… birthday!! Yes. I am 27 today. Weird. And, I was already planning on baking up some birthday happiness, so it was a perfect time to share with you all!! {If anyone is still even subscribed/reading my blog that is! ;)}

For my birthday I couldn’t choose between a lemon cupcake with lemon curd filling, or a mocha inspired cupcake. Alas, the chocolate and coffee lover in me won!

I thought it was fitting that I take a pic to mark my enthusiasm to get back into blogging… CHEESE!

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Yep. 27 year old cheesy smile. It still feels weird to say I’m 27. :-\

Anyhow – these cupcakes were fun to make. I must admit I wasn’t thrilled with the texture, and they weren’t chocolaty enough for my tastes, but all in all they are good! The frosting is smooth and airy and delicious! The frosting is definitely a remake!

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Yummm. These will be delish tonight for a birthday treat.

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Eeek. All my cute little cupcake soldiers lined up! Ready to be devoured!

ONTO the recipe!!!

Mocha Cupcakes

Ingredients:

For the cupcakes:

  • 1/2 cup butter, softened
  • 1 1/2 cup sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 1/2 cup flour
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened dark cocoa powder
  • 1/2 tsp kosher salt
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 2 Tbsp espresso powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 cup brewed coffee, cooled
  • 1/2 cup buttermilk

For the frosting:

  • 1 cup butter, softened
  • 1 Tbsp espresso powder
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream
  • 1 Tbsp chocolate syrup
  • 5 cup powdered sugar

Directions:

For the cupcakes:

  1. In a bowl, mix flour, cocoa, salt, baking soda, baking powder and espresso powder. Set aside.
  2. In a measuring cup, mix together cooled coffee and buttermilk. Set aside.
  3. In large mixing bowl, beat butter and sugar together until fluffy, about 5 minutes.
  4. Add eggs, beating in one at a time.
  5. Slowly add in dry ingredients, alternating with milk mixture {about 3 additions of each}.
  6. Pour batter into cupcake liners, no more than half full {seriously – the rise up fast, and don’t dome over like most cupcakes… don’t over fill!}
  7. Bake in a 350 degree oven for 15-20 minutes. Remove and cool completely.

For the frosting:

  1. For the frosting, warm cream for about 30 seconds in microwave. Whisk in espresso powder and chocolate syrup. Set aside {I threw mine into the freeze for 5-10 minutes to cool down the mixture, so as to not melt my thick airy frosting!}.
  2. Beat butter, powdered sugar together, until fluffy. About 3-5 minutes.
  3. Add cooled cream & espresso mixture slowly until desired consistency. If desired, whip an additional 3-5 minutes until fluffy.
  4. Pipe frosting onto cooled cupcakes and garnish with chocolate covered espresso bean, or in my case a chocolate covered nut or chocolate ball {Chocolate covered espresso beans are non-existent where I live!}.

Source & Recipe {very slightly adapted} from: Shugary Sweets

I hope y’all have a great weekend and a safe St. Patty’s!! 🙂

CIAO!

xoxo

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46/52: 3 Bean and Turkey Soup

Brr! The weather has quickly turned frigid this week. We are definitely approaching winter up here in the Pacific Northwest! In my house, freezing cold weather calls for a nice big pot of soup. My husband works outside, so he certainly welcomes a hot bowl of soup without complaint during the week, or really any time. I came up with this soup this week and it was full of flavor and protein, and best of all is über healthy. Tons of veggies and good for you stuff. My only complaint was I accidentally added too much pasta and it soaked up all of my broth. I added an additional 4 cups of broth but it was still way too thick. The recipe below is adapted to remedy this! So, serve this up with a crispy, gooey grilled cheese and this is a definite comfort meal for a chilly evening! 🙂

Hopefully everyone is gearing up for a wonderful Thanksgiving… I know we are. We are so excited for this year. We’ve decided to start a new tradition in our home. We are going to have 2 Thanksgiving dinners! We have family dinners on Thanksgiving day and we don’t want to forgo those for anything. We love spending time with our family. But we also want a chance to try out recipes and have our own little dinner. Solution? Black Friday Thanksgiving! 🙂 Eee. I am excited. Now I have quite a menu to plan — what desserts I’m bringing to our family dinner, and then an entire menu for our own dinner. Do you have any suggestions on cooking the perfect turkey? I have never made one! Any advice would be much appreciated.

3 Bean and Turkey Soup

Ingredients:

2 TB EVOO
1 small onion, diced
2 large carrots, shredded
2 stalks of celery, diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 red pepper, chopped
3 TB of tomato paste
1 can of petite diced tomatoes
salt and pepper
1-2 tsp garlic powder
2 tsp oregano
2 tsp parsley
1 pound of ground turkey or sausage
1 can white kidney {canelli} beans, rinsed
1 can light red kidney beans, rinsed
1 can dark red kidney beans, rinsed
4-6 cups of chicken broth (or use a vegetable broth) I like to use a hearty stock when I can
1 C of ditallini pasta, or another small pasta
1 C of broken spaghetti
freshly grated Parmesan for garnish

Directions:

1. In large pot or dutch oven, heat 2 TB oil over medium heat. Add onions, and saute for a few minutes, then add garlic and saute a minute more. Add remaining vegetables and tomato paste. Saute until tender.
2. Meanwhile, in a skillet, brown turkey meat and season with salt and pepper.
3. Add browned turkey to dutch oven, stir to combine. Add garlic, oregano and parsley.
4. Add rinsed beans to dutch oven, stir to combine.
5. Add broth and bring to a boil. Add pasta and simmer until pasta is tender.

Bon Apetite!

45/52: 30 Days of Gratitude

Good morning!

I feel as though life is so hectic that we often get “caught up” and forget how lucky we truly are. Or, at least, that is how I feel and have been feeling more often as of late. Even though everything in life isn’t how I “planned it” or expected it would turn out…. when I go to sleep at night I can reassuringly tell myself, life is good. At the end of the day, no matter how much strife or how many struggles I have been through, I am blessed beyond words. Considering this month we celebrate Thanksgiving, I have been searching for some way to display and reflect on what I am thankful for {Particularly since we {my PLU Cohort} are encouraged to reflect on every little, teeny, tiny thing… It is obviously transferring over into my personal life!}. I couldn’t have found a better solution if I had been looking and looking for it.

I was reading through my favorite blogs for the morning and stumbled across this great idea… “30 Days of Gratitude”. I’m sure you have heard of these projects before, but this one is different. You don’t post via writing what you’re thankful for in your Facebook status, you post through pictures. This is totally up my ally considering my addiction to my Instagram app! I came across this wonderful idea at The Brown Eyed Baker, and she found it via this fabulous website, positively present. So, I am going to do it! I am getting a late start, so I’m just going to pick up today and begin doing it. I don’t think I need to finish the project at the end of the month, particularly since we should be thankful all the time. So, I will end up finishing this some time in Decemeber. I will be posting my photo stream via twitter {See link on the right to follow me – thesanties}, and via my Flickr {Santies Sunnyside Up} account!

Here are the details:

Have you recently been reflecting upon what you’re thankful for? Consider joining us! Find me and follow me, I will follow your feed as well. 😉

PS…. Washingtonians, do not forget to vote, ballots are due today! It is a very important election, make your vote heard! Did you vote? I did!

Make today a good day! 🙂

44/52: Homemade Halloween Oreo Cookies with Patrina

Good morning and Happy Halloween!

I felt it was only appropriate to end the month with something festive and of course with my October baking project! My aunt and I both decided to take a month off in September because of the craziness of school for me, and her as well {I don’t know how she does it with 4 kids, 3 being teens/tweens!}. So here we are with our October goody… homemade oreos! Who doesn’t love an oreo? I don’t think it is one of those goodies I could eat all the time, but I definitely have my spurts where oreos just hit the spot. Overall these were yummy! The cookie is crisp, but so much better than the store-bought version. The filling was pretty good, but I think they would have been just as good with a regular frosting in the middle – but then again, I guess they wouldn’t be homemade oreo cookies then?!

These are super fun Halloween treats. I think I’m going to put together some treat bags for my MAE cohort today — we have long days with double classes tonight. Eeek. We could probably all use the sugar rush!

Homemade Oreo Cookies

Ingredients:
For the cookies:

1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup unsweetened or Dutch process cocoa powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1 to 1 1/2 cups sugar {Use 1 cup for a truer-to-original Oreo wafer or more sugar for a sweeter chocolate cookie}
10 tbsp {1 stick + 2 tbsp} unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 large egg

For the cream filling {white}:

4 tbsp {1/2 stick} unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/4 cup vegetable shortening
2 cups confectioners’ sugar, sifted
2 tsp vanilla extract

Instructions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 375˚ F.  Line two baking sheets with silicone baking mats or parchment paper.
  2. In a food processor or the bowl of an electric mixer, combine the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder, salt, and sugar.  Mix briefly to combine.  Add the butter to the bowl and pulse or mix briefly to incorporate.  Add in the egg and mix until the dough forms a cohesive mass.
  3. Scoop between 2 tsp to a scant tbsp of batter {depending on how large you want them} onto the baking sheet.  Continue scooping, spacing the dough balls a couple of inches apart.  With moistened fingers, gently press down on the dough balls to flatten slightly.  Bake for 9-11 minutes {closer to 9 minutes for smaller cookies}, rotating the pans halfway through baking.  Transfer the baking sheets to a wire rack and let cool completely until the cookies are firm and set.  Be sure the cookies are completely cooled before filling.
  4. To make the filling, combine the butter and shortening in the bowl of an electric mixer.  Beat on medium-high speed until smooth.  Add the confectioners’ sugar to the bowl and mix on low speed just until incorporated, then increase the speed to medium-high and beat until light and fluffy, about 2-3 minutes.  Blend in the vanilla extract.
  5. To assemble the cookies, pair them up by size.  Use a pastry bag fitted with a plain round tip to pipe a swirl of filling onto the flat side of one cookie of each pair.  Sandwich together with the remaining cookie and press down so that the filling reaches the edges.

Yield: 20 to 30 sandwich cookies, depending on the size

Source & Recipe: Smells Like Home

Anyway, I hope everyone has a safe and happy holiday…. what are your Halloween plans?! Did you do anything fun this weekend? Have a great week everyone!

43/52: Pumpkin Cheesecake

Wow — weekly post number 43. I can’t believe there are less than 10 weeks left in the year. Time flies! But, at least it is the best part of the year – holiday time! I look forward to this part of the year all… well, year! I enjoy spring and summer, but there is nothing like holiday baking! Fun, fun! Speaking of holiday baking, ever since I made my pumpkin cupcakes I have been craving more pumpkin goodies! We bought pumpkin spice coffee creamer at the store recently, but it didn’t subside my craving. I think the real reason why is because I’ve had my eye on this pumpkin cheesecake for weeks. Once I showed my husband the picture he agreed, we needed to try this recipe!

I am soo glad we did. It was delicious! The texture was so creamy, and the flavor reminded me of a wonderful cross between velvety cheesecake and pumpkin pie. Oh my. We only had one piece each at home, and then I packaged up a few pieces for my father and mother-in-law and the rest went to work with John. There is no way I could have the rest sitting around the house! The reviews at work and by my father-in-law were unanimous – delicious! My father-in-law even said it might be the best cheesecake he has ever had. 🙂

Unfortunately my pictures aren’t my best. We didn’t cut into the cheesecake until after dinner, which was a bad move on my part! Why? No natural light. 😦 It was already dark out. So rather than being patient and trying to find a good spot to photograph the cheesecake, I was impatient and ready to eat! Regardless, I think y’all get the point. Its delicious! Especially topped with just a little drizzle of caramel. 😉

Yumm!

Pumpkin Cheesecake

Prep time: 20 minutes | Bake time: 55 to 65 minutes

Ingredients:

For the crust:
2 c gingersnap cookie crumbs {about a 14-oz package of cookies}
2 T light brown sugar
Pinch of salt
6 T unsalted butter, melted

For the cheesecake:
32 oz cream cheese, at room temperature
3/4 c granulated sugar
1/2 c light brown sugar
2 cups {about a 15-oz can} canned pumpkin  {**I prefer Libbys}
4 eggs, at room temperature
2 1/2 T heavy cream
1 T vanilla extract
1 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
1/4 tsp ground cloves
1/4 tsp ground allspice

Directions:

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Double-wrap the bottom and outside of a 9-inch springform pan with heavy-duty foil. Mix together the crust ingredients and press into the bottom of the springform pan. Bake for 6 to 8 minutes, or until lightly browned. Remove from oven and cool completely. Reduce oven temperature to 325 degrees F.

2. Bring a pot of water to a boil for a water bath.

3. Beat together the cream cheese and the sugars on medium speed until smooth and creamy, scraping the sides of the bowl as needed, about 3 minutes. Add the pumpkin and mix on low until completely incorporated. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well until fully incorporated and scraping down the sides of the bowl between each addition. Add the heavy cream and vanilla and beat until well combined, about 1 minute. Add the cinnamon, ginger, salt, nutmeg, cloves and allspice and mix on low to incorporate.

4. Pour the batter into the prepared crust. Tap the pan on the counter to release any air bubbles. Place the pan into a larger pan {a roasting pan is great for this} and pour the boiling water into the larger pan until it is about halfway up the springform pan. {**Note: I didn’t have a pan big enough for a water bath — if you don’t, get one! My perfectly baked cheesecake cracked when I took it out of the oven 😦 }

5. Bake for 55 to 65 minutes, or until the edges are set, but the middle still jiggles a little. Keeping the oven door closed, turn off the oven and let the cheesecake rest in the oven for 1 hour. After 1 hour, remove the cheesecake from the oven, carefully remove it from the water bath, remove the foil and place the cheesecake on a wire rack to cool completely, about an additional 2 hours. Once completely cool, refrigerate for at least 6 hours {preferably overnight}.

6. Cover any leftover cheesecake with plastic wrap and store in the refrigerator for up to 4 days. Wrapped, the cheesecake can be frozen for up to 2 months.

Source & Recipe: Brown Eyed Baker

Make me! This would be perfect for a Halloween or harvest celebration – or even for Thanksgiving. Either way, give it a try – it is so worth it!

41/52: Spiced Pumpkin Cupcakes

I am so excited to share my first autumn recipe with you all! I am welcoming autumn with open arms this year. I am so excited for fall flavors and colorful leaves. And my puppy’s first birthday! Yes – I’m that puppy parent… I am pretty sure you will be seeing a “birthday” post in the very near future. His birthday is October 22! Speaking of my little ball of hair, he was just oh so cute yesterday. I was photographing my cupcakes for this blog entry and my little dude was just being so cute, I couldn’t resist a mini photo shoot. He is such a good sport – he totally poses for me. 🙂

And then, once I was uploading the pictures, I couldn’t help but make a super cute collage with the photos, and then I couldn’t help setting it as my desktop.

See?! I told you. I am totally that puppy parent. Haha. On to the cupcakes!

I have been chomping at the bit to make my first fall recipe. But, life has been crazy and there hasn’t been much time for baking. The other night I didn’t really have any homework that was due the next day and my husband was craving something home-baked. My first thought?! These cupcakes. Oh my gosh. I made these last year and posted them on the blog I was working on at that time. And actually, as I think about it, this was the very first recipe I made in my Kitchenaid standup mixer. They were absolutely amazing last year and equally as amazing this year. I will *NEVER* search for another pumpkin cupcake recipe for as long as I live, that is how good this recipe is! And so simple! Love, love, love. Moist, slightly spicy and pumpkin-ey… perfection!

The only change I made was to the frosting, it was too thin and I wanted it just slightly sweeter.

Spiced Pumpkin Cupcakes

Ingredients:

For the cupcakes:

2 2/3 cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp. baking soda
2 tsp. baking powder
2 tsp. ground cinnamon
¼ tsp. freshly grated nutmeg
¼ tsp. ground cloves
1 tsp. salt
1 (15 oz.) can pumpkin puree
1 cup sugar
1 cup packed light brown sugar
1 cup canola or vegetable oil
4 large eggs

For the frosting:

8 oz. cream cheese
5 tbsp. unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 tsp. vanilla extract
3
½ cups confectioners’ sugar, sifted

Directions:

To make the cupcakes, preheat the oven to 350°F.  Line cupcake pans with paper liners.  In a medium bowl, sift together the flour, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves and salt.  Set aside.  In the bowl of an electric mixer, blend together the pumpkin, granulated sugar, brown sugar and oil. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition.  With the mixture on low-speed, add the flour mixture in two additions, mixing just until incorporated.

Fill the cupcake liners about three-quarters full.  Bake until the cupcakes are golden and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, 18-20 minutes.  Transfer the pans to a wire rack and let cool for 10 minutes, then remove the cupcakes from the pans and let cool completely.

To make the frosting, combine the cream cheese and butter in the bowl of an electric mixer.  Beat on medium-high speed until well combined and smooth, about 2-3 minutes.  Mix in the vanilla extract.  Gradually beat in the confectioners’ sugar until totally incorporated, increase the speed and then beat until smooth. Frost cooled cupcakes as desired.

Source and Recipe: Annie’s Eats, originally Williams Sonoma, Frosting slightly adapted from Confections of a Foodie Bride

Seriously… try these. If I could figure out how to duplicate this recipe for any cupcake flavor I would do it, that is how moist and delicious these are! Plus, look at how cute they are. I love opening my fridge and seeing these cuties.

39/52: Shrimp, Chicken and Sausage Cajun Jambalya

Lately my favorite dishes seem to be the ones we re-create from a really good restaurant meal. The other day we were out and about and stopped into a restaurant for lunch. I ordered some disappointing buffalo chicken pizza {who puts BBQ sauce on a buffalo chicken pizza?! Wth?}, but my husband ordered some delicious jambalaya. I was honestly surprised because we were at a regular restaurant, but the jambalaya was surprisingly yummy! He decided we had to re-create it. After much searching we settled on a base recipe and altered it to our likings. I think the results were perfect. Next time we might try to develop the flavors a little differently, such as with smoked paprika. The thing I love about this dish is you can totally play around with the flavors and get a different result every time. A totally easy dish, and one that screamed comfort food! I’d even venture to say that it was better than the restaurant version. Yum!

Mmm… shrimp, chicken and sausage?! Yum.

Shrimp, Chicken and Sausage Cajun Jambalaya

Ingredients:

2 tsp olive oil
1 boneless, skinless chicken breast cut into pieces
8 ounces polska kielbasa or andouille sausage
15 small-medium shrimp
1 onion, diced
1 red pepper, diced
1/2 cup diced celery
1 can diced tomatoes, drained
2 T chopped garlic
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
3/4 tsp onion powder
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/2 T paprika
salt and pepper to taste
2 cups uncooked white rice
4 cups chicken stock
3 bay leaves
2 tsp Worcestershire sauce
1 tsp hot sauce

Directions:

1. Heat oil in a large pot over medium heat. Saute chicken and kielbasa until lightly browned, about 5 minutes.

2. Stir in onion, bell pepper, celery, tomato and garlic. Season with cayenne, onion powder, paprika, salt and pepper to taste {the measurements here are just an estimate. We tend to season things like this with a lot of onion and garlic powder for extra flavor}. Cook for 5 minutes, or until onion is tender and translucent.

3. Add rice, then stir in chicken stock and bay leaves. Bring to a boil , reduce heat, cover and simmer for 20 minutes or until rice is tender.

4. Stir in Worcestershire sauce and hot pepper sauce and simmer for another few minutes.

5. Add shrimp. {We couldn’t find any good fresh shrimp so we used frozen already cooked shrimp. If you are using fresh shrimp, cook in the mixture until done. If using frozen just add them with enough time for them to warm up}

Source and recipe: Adapted from All Recipes.

Have an awesome weekend!